F(r)iction, an imprint of Tethered by Letters, does not disappoint with its sixth issue. As spectacularly conceived as the writing and artwork which adorns its pages, this little lit mag is fresh and vibrant, and certainly not your traditional literary journal. Issue six boasts not only a bevy of artfully crafted short fiction and poetry, it holds an author interview, book excerpt, short comic, and features work from Girls Write Now – each piece with its own uniquely rendered, luscious editorial artwork and printed in full-color. This is a magazine meant to be savored.
As an editor and publisher myself, I can only begin to fathom the amount dedication and incredible sense of purpose it took to create this gem of a publication. The singularity and thoughtfulness of this vision is staggering – down to the richness of the paper stock, the supple buttery feel of it in your hands, the subtly textured cover. The attention to detail here is clear and definitely to be admired – not only in the design and printing of the publication itself but in the quality of craftsmanship and keen selection of the writing within.
Prose is certainly my personal wheelhouse and the pieces within this issue are simply stunning, but the poetry managed to steal my heart as well, particularly the way in which the artwork married so beautifully with each individual poem, or suite, but also through the clean and deliberate writing. Amie Whittemore’s ‘Beetroot,’ ‘Prairie Onion,’ and ‘Ode to Fewer’ were especially exceptional – her words a deep rumbling in your bones, a throb in your gut, asking you to reach inside yourself, to name that indelible sense of longing which lives inside us all.
As for the prose featured here, few of the pieces may be considered traditionally literary but that is a shame as each are astonishing, deftly crafted works. The short fictions in this issue are wildly imaginative – a man falls in love with a woman centuries away as he tracks her life in his dreams; a woman catalogues her hurts on index cards, waiting for the day she can bear to part with them; sisters eat the nightmares of their campmates in order to find respite from their own; the letter Q deals with his agent over the quality of work he has been landing; and the Santa Claus and red-nosed reindeer we knew as children are reimagined in darker forms, questioning the very nature of worship – but they are no less resonant for that, if anything it is through the suspended wonder of these stories that their full truth is realized; each a rich and textured narrative rendered with an acute and careful hand.
There are standouts here as well: Casey Guerin’s ‘Push/Strain’ is captivating, a skillfully crafted narrative which searches for reconciliation between the capabilities of our bodies, and our selves, and our desperate desire to defy those limits written with a refined hand, the wording calculated, ringing in the skull. A.C. Koch’s ‘Cinema Lessons’ follows a young woman learning English from the American movies assigned to her by her tutor as she navigates her burgeoning sense of self and the culture shock of her new home in a devastatingly observed and revelatory piece. And Steph Kilen’s ‘If There is Anything We Can Do’ opens a window on town where children may be found hung as a horrific matter of course, and witnesses a mother’s grief in the aftermath of such an event as she searches for some kind of rationale – a delicate, distinct and masterfully distilled portrayal of the senselessness of death and inexhaustible weight of loss.
All of the work which graces the pages of this unique and necessary publication reaches deeply, viscerally inside you and takes root, spreads out, lacing into instinct, into our fundamental selves, this vast experience of humanity. F(r)iction is something truly special. The quality of the writing, the staggering illustrations, the utterly inclusive nature of the work showcased is inspiring. This issue was a joy to read and a true sensory experience; a wonderful example of the fact that there are no limits to literature and, hopefully, a beacon for others to navigate by.